Raducanu: “My flights were booked at the end of qualifying”

  • Matt Trollope

Taking one day at a time, operating on “autopilot mode” and remaining unwaveringly present have helped 18-year-old Emma Raducanu make it all the way to the US Open semifinals.

It is because of this approach that she was blissfully unaware of several incredible milestones she has compiled along the way to the last four in New York.

US OPEN DAY 10 REPORT: Remarkable Raducanu into US Open semifinals

“I have actually got no idea about any of the records at all. It's the first time I heard today that I was the first qualifier to make the semis. I had no idea before that,” said Raducanu after becoming the first qualifier in Open Era history to reach the semifinals in New York.

“I'm not here to chase any records right now. I'm just taking care of what I can do on the moment and on the match ahead. Haven't even started thinking about the next one yet.”

The next one is against 17th seed Maria Sakkari, for a place in a Grand Slam final.

Raducanu's 6-3 6-4 win over Bencic – the Olympic gold medallist and the first top-20 player Raducanu had ever faced – sent British reporters trawling their Twitter archives to unearth early mentions of the rising star pointing to clues of her potential.

Other reporters wondered why Raducanu had never before come across their radar until Wimbledon, where she lit up the All England Club with her unlikely run to the fourth round while still ranked outside the top 300.

It was a fair question.

Raducanu was a relatively anonymous figure outside of British tennis circles, barely competing in the two years prior to this year’s grass-court season.

Instead she focused on her schooling and rehabbing injuries, as well as limiting her travel in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while she enjoyed a solid junior career, reaching the Wimbledon and US Open girls singles quarterfinals in 2018 and peaking at world No.20, she did not have the junior profile of fellow semifinalist Leylah Fernandez, who in 2019 won the Roland Garros title and rose to No.1.

Yet Raducanu has since burst onto the scene in a remarkable manner few could have predicted – including herself.

“I didn't expect to be here at all. I mean, I think my flights were booked at the end of qualifying, so it's a nice problem to have,” the world No.150 admitted with a smile.

“I'm just really enjoying the experience. Out there on the court today (against Bencic), I was saying to myself: This could be the last time you play on Ashe, so might as well just go for it and enjoy everything.”

Building to this point

Despite her surprise at this result, she sensed her form was good.

Shortly after Wimbledon she headed to the US and reached the quarterfinals of an ITF 100K event in Landisville before a trip to the final of the WTA 125K Chicago tournament.

“After four weeks, I think that building up the levels at the tournaments, my game got better. With each higher level tournament I played, I had to raise my game,” said Raducanu, who has won16 of her past 18 matches.

“It led up very well to the US Open. So I think that I worked my way up to this level gradually but the amount of matches I have had has really helped with my confidence.”

Once at Flushing Meadows, this confidence translated to her game, and she has been unstoppable since.

She identified her movement and mentality as aspects of her game proving most valuable.

“Physically I would say I'm not 100 per cent developed yet, but my speed and ability to get to some of the balls has definitely surprised me,” she said.

“I have started sliding, which I didn't know I could do actually, and I kind of do it by accident now. I have always wanted to learn how to do it, but now I can do it.

“Also just the mental strength to be able to come out onto Ashe for the first time and keep my calm and come through, being a break down (against Shelby Rogers) and then today again to serve out the match and play Belinda on such a big court and occasion.

“It means a lot. I didn't compete for 18 months, but here I am, and it just shows that if you believe in yourself, then anything is possible.”

Stats snapshot: Emma Raducanu’s achievements

> She is on an eight-match, 16-set winning streak

> This is just the second Grand Slam main draw of her career, and she has reached the second week in both (4R Wimbledon, SF US Open)

> Only three months ago, she played her first ever tour-level event in Nottingham

> Ranked No.338 at the start of Wimbledon, she is projected to rise to world No.51

> Her new ranking will see become the new British women’s No.1 ahead of Johanna Konta, who had held the position uninterrupted for almost six years

> She joins legends Billie-Jean King and Kim Clijsters as the only woman ranked outside the top 100 to reach the US Open semifinals

> She is the first female qualifier to reach this stage of the tournament in the Open Era